To cap the three-day Vernacular Architecture Conference on Siquijor and Negros Oriental, students from different schools in Dumaguete presented design plans for select built heritage sites last September 21 at the Lawak Kauswagan, Foundation University.


This was part of the pilot edition Vernacular Architecture Conference hosted by Foundation University in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) with the main goal of determining the general characteristics of vernacular architectural landmarks in Siquijor and Negros Oriental that are representative of its historical, social and aesthetic contexts.


Architecture students from Foundation University, Silliman University and Negros Oriental State University participated in the series of lectures and on-site tours held September 19 to 21 in both provinces and produced design plans for the church complex in Lazi (Siquijor), Bacong (Negros Oriental) and Zamboangita (Negros Oriental).


Vernacular Architecture


The onsite visits of built heritage structures showed profound examples of vernacular architecture among the participants and organizers.


One of which was the “Tabique Pampango” – an architectural discovery which was evident in the churches and convents especially in Siquijor. This refers to a thin wall made from criss-crossed pieces of wood and bamboo coated with a mix of lime and sand.


In most churches, local materials were utilized namely: limestone, water, egg white, carabao skin, clay and river stones. These locally-available materials are considered the essential factors in coming up with a vernacular architecture.


Among the remarkable styles of vernacular architecture is the “bahay kubo” – which normally elevates the church or building at least a meter from the ground. This style anticipates the flood that may occur any time of the year.


Series of Lectures


To open the said endeavor, Foundation University Cultural Director Alexie Dagaerag-Miraflor gave an orientation to the participants on the program goals and objectives during the opening ceremony held at Adayo Cove Resort located in Siquijor, Siquijor.

Luis Nathaniel Borongan, an accredited tour guide, followed with his input on the history, culture and the various tourist spots in Siquijor province as a prelude before the participants explored the cultural heritage of the island through the onsite visits of the architectural structures.

On the other hand, Rev. Msgr. Julius Heruela shared about heritage churches located in Negros Oriental & Siquijor. He stressed on the preservation of the heritage structures as his lifelong advocacy and elaborated on the architectural innovations of the past motivated by the mix of Spanish influence and local artistry.


Also, a series of lectures were held at Hotel Essencia (Dumaguete City) for the participants to acquire prior knowledge on the existing historical structures in Negros Oriental.


Architect Ned Carlos began by sharing his knowledge on the architectural designs that can be found in Negros Oriental. This was followed by an overview on the existing historical structures located in the province by Gemma Iso, the culture and arts officer of Negros Oriental.


Meanwhile, Shiela Marie Lagarde from the Department of Architecture and Fine Arts of Foundation University talked about the Estudio Damgo – the program goals and objectives along with the short narrative on the past and present projects of the first student-led design-build program in the Philippines.


Sustainable and eco-friendly architecture comes at the center of Foundation University’s architecture program began by President Dean Sinco, who is a practicing architect.


Onsite Visits


Participants of the Vernacular Architecture Conference on Negros Oriental and Siquijor went around the church structures within the island of Siquijor namely: Parish of Saint Augustine of Hippo (San Juan); Parish of St. Isidore the Farmer (Lazi); Parish of our Lady of Divine Providence (Maria) and the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi (Siquijor, Siquijor).


The group also visited the heritage churches in the southern part of Negros Oriental: Parish of St. Isidore the Farmer (Zamboanguita); Parish of St. Nicholas de Tolentino (Dauin) and Parish of St. Augustine de Hippo Parish (Bacong).

They following structures located in Dumaguete were also looked into: St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral with its adjacent belfry, the Dumaguete Presidencia Building which is now converted from a government center to a regional museum and the Silliman Hall – representative of the american influence along with the University Church, Chapel of the Evangel, Luce Auditorium and the Main Library.

Through the visits, the participants were able to utilize their senses in observing the architectural styles and methods used even during the Spanish colonial era. It was through the visits that the participants were able to fully grasp about Vernacular Architecture and its importance for the country to preserve and utilize among nation-builders.


Built Heritage Preservation


Architect Jayson Braga Portem talked about Architectural Heritage Conservation to the participants of the three-day Vernacular Architecture Conference on Siquijor and Negros Oriental.


The speaker then shared that in doing the work, one must establish the cultural and historical significance of the built structure. He elaborated that memory is important in order to justify the measures to be taken whether it would opt for restoration, preservation or reconstruction and the like.


Portem serves as the Chair of the United Architects of the Philippines Specialty Council in Architectural Heritage Conservation under the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. He was joined by Foundation University President Dean Sinco during the presentation of the output done by the student architects.



Aside from the learning experiences, the conference paved the way for architecture students from the three higher education institutions in Dumaguete City to develop camaraderie among themselves. This positive outcome will further develop into future collaborations as future architects, who gained knowledge on the importance of cultural heritage conservation and vernacular architecture.